Greener post-election EU Parliament predicted

Study forecasts stronger Socialist/Green coalition, waning of power for centre-right

The European Parliament could take an even stronger stand on environmental issues after next month's elections than it has in the present parliament, according to a study released in Brussels this week.

Prepared by an expert on European politics and policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the report controversially forecasts a significant fall in influence for the main centre-right political grouping, the European People's Party (EPP), at the expense of centre-left, left-wing and green parties (see table below). "For the first time in the history of the European Parliament," the study concludes, "we may see the emergence of governing coalitions without the main party group on the centre-right".

Though the current and previous parliaments have been notable for their issue-by-issue coalitions changes, the Party of European Socialists (PES) and other left-wing groups have generally taken a stronger line than the EPP on environmental legislation. Notable recent examples include the Auto/Oil package of directives setting limits on road vehicle emissions and fuel quality and the new directive on waste landfilling.

Smaller centre-left, left and Green parties are forecast to do well in the elections, enabling a new absolute majority to emerge without the EPP. These are the European Liberal Democratic and Reformist Group (ELDR) and the "left bloc" comprising the Greens and the European United Left (EUL). Despite their sometimes large differences over economic policy, all four groups "share much in common" on environmental and consumer issues, the study notes.

A further twist in the tale is that the Green group, while unlikely to make big gains itself, is predicted to fuse with regionalist parties currently members of the European Radical Alliance (ERA), which could take its representation from 30 to 37. This could significantly increase the Greens' influence in the Parliament, according to Brussels consultancy Adamson BSMG, which sponsored the study.

The study's conclusions are particularly important in the light of the entry into force in May of the Amsterdam EU treaty, which will give the new European Parliament significantly increased power relative to the Council of Ministers in the framing of new environmental laws (ENDS Daily 12 April).

European Parliament party groups seat numbers:
               May 1999      Election forecast
PES               214              214
EPP               201              193
ELDR               42               66
EUL                34               38
EDA/UFE*           34               28
Greens             27               30
ERA                21                7
EN*                16               15
NA*                37               35
Total:            626              626
* EDA/UFE = European Democratic Alliance/Union
for Europe;  EN = Europe of Nations;  NA = Non

Follow Up:
Adamson BSMG Worldwide, tel: +32 2 230 0775. Reference: The 1999-2004 European Parliament: A forecast for the June 1999 elections, and its implications.

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